Niger to vaccinate children against malaria

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The Nigerian government has given the go-ahead to administer the British malaria vaccine to children under the age of five to combat the disease, which killed more than 4,000 people in 2021 alone.

"In the coming months, this vaccine will reach Niger and measures are already being taken," the country's health minister, Illiassou Maïnassara told the AFP.

A communiqué from the Council of Ministers confirmed this announcement, indicating that Niger was among "the countries eligible by the World Health Organisation (WHO)".

On 9 October 2021, the WHO had recommended the massive deployment among children of "RTS,S", a vaccine from the British pharmaceutical giant GSK, the only one that has so far shown effectiveness in significantly reducing the most severe cases of malaria.

In 2019, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi began introducing the vaccine in selected areas.

More than one million children have received the vaccine in these countries, showing a "substantial reduction in severe cases", according to the WHO.

In Niger, "an authorisation to bring in" this vaccine has already been granted to partners including WHO and UNICEF, according to Minister Maïnassara.

The "RTS,S" acts against the parasite "plasmodium falciparum", transmitted by mosquitoes, the most deadly worldwide and the most prevalent in Africa.

About 90% of the world's malaria cases are in Africa, where 260,000 children die each year.

Last year in Niger, 4,170 people died of malaria, and more than 4 million cases were reported.

According to Dr Djermakoye Hadiza Jackou, coordinator of the National Malaria Control Programme in Niger (PNLP), the vaccine is "an opportunity to reduce mortality and morbidity" in children aged 0 to 5 years, "who represent more than 50% of cases" and "nearly 60% of deaths".

According to her, a combination of the vaccine with other means of prevention, notably insecticide-treated mosquito nets, will make it possible to reduce "by at least 75% the number of cases of malaria" among children.

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